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Yuen Sin |
Monday, Oct 31, 2016

The market for tuition and other academic services like the trade of school notes, exam papers and textbooks is flourishing here, aided by the growth of mobile applications and online classified listings.

However, a black market run by individuals promising to complete graded school essays and assignments for a fee also continues to thrive on these platforms – despite the risk of expulsion from their schools for students who use such services.

Rates start at $100 for every 1,000 words, with additional charges if it is a rush job.

Some guarantee students from polytechnics and universities here grades of at least a B.

A Straits Times check found at least 30 users on online marketplaces like Carousell and Gumtree hawking such services, in addition to three websites targeted at Singapore students offering to complete assignments for a fee.

While some of these sellers appear to be based overseas, most seem to be local students or working adults.

In addition to essays on subjects like business, healthcare, marketing and economics for polytechnic and university students, they also say they can complete course work for project work, a graded subject at the A levels.

Students can request revisions of essays, and are promised that the work will be plagiarism-free to avoid detection of cheating.

There are also posts offering to finish coursework for art at the N and O levels, or programming assignments for computer science students.

A seller on Carousell claimed on his page that he has completed close to 900 essays for students over the past two years.

In a public review seen on Carousell, a student who appeared to be from private school SIM Global Education said she had received 93 out of 100 marks for an “outsourced” essay, which was completed in a day.

A recent polytechnic graduate, who declined to be named, said she, along with two friends, had paid for essays in their design-based marketing and communications subjects.

“We would get at least a B for them, which is quite good since design courses are hard to score in,” she added.

Kaplan and SIM GE said a student who passes off another’s work as his own could face penalties, from marks deduction to expulsion.

Rules related to academic misconduct are also included in student handbooks at Kaplan, SIM GE and the polytechnics.

Rhys Johnson, senior vice-president and provost of Kaplan Singapore, said it has processes to detect cheating.

For example, a student who scores highly in his course work assignments but then gets a low mark in the exam may be investigated.

However, cases of students getting others to do their assignments are hard to prove, said a SIM GE spokesman.

Some sellers have also introduced measures to help students avoid detection.

One in his mid-30s, who is based here and declined to be named, tells clients to edit the work after he sends it back to them so that it matches their style or level of understanding.

He does not think of his work as unethical. “We only wish to ease the burden of schoolwork and not to help students pass one assignment after another, which would give some an unfair advantage.”

yuensin@sph.com.sg


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